York rover team fuelled by innovation, interdisciplinary collaboration


The York University Rover Team (YURT), comprised of engineers and scientists at the Lassonde School of Engineering and part of the York University Robotics Society (YURS), has harnessed diverse expertise to create their own rovers and compete in national and international challenges – all while enriching the student experience by providing skill development opportunities, fostering multidisciplinary collaboration and promoting experiential learning.

Since its inception in 2007, the Rover Team has forged a strong reputation by consistently placing among the top teams at various competitions, notably the University Rover Challenge (URC). Inspired by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s first Mars Rover, which landed on the red planet 25 years ago, the annual competition takes place in a desert region of southern Utah in the U.S. and involves over 100 international university teams.

Teams compete for first place by designing and programming their rovers to complete scenarios that a rover might face while surveying Mars, such as identifying points of interest, analyzing soil samples or diagnosing a given problem.

York University Rover Team at the Canadian International Rover Challenge.
York University Rover Team.

In preparation for next year’s URC, YURT is working on a brand-new prototype, which was used to compete at the Canadian International Rover Challenge, held in the badlands of Alberta in August. The team aims to leverage their experience at this competition to improve their rover and achieve success in future challenges.

To design a well-rounded, capable, versatile and competition-ready rover, YURT divides work among four sub-teams: software, mechanical, electrical and science. Students on each sub-team come from a range of educational backgrounds, such as mechanical engineering, chemistry, biology and computer science – all contributing valuable expertise to achieve a unified goal.

“This club doesn’t just embody interdisciplinary work, it requires it – we wouldn’t be able to function without working together,” says Quardin Lyttle, former president and industry co-ordinator of YURT, and third-year electrical engineering student at Lassonde. “We need to collaborate with multiple disciplines to create a successful final product. Being a part of this team allows us to learn many things we wouldn’t learn in class. We design and manufacture things like printed-circuit boards, answer open-ended questions and apply engineering knowledge in a more detailed fashion. These rover projects are very involved.”

In addition to preparing for intense competitions, YURT gives undergraduate students experiential opportunities to explore the field of robotics. For example, the York University Sumo Bot Team, part of the YURS, helps students gain introductory experience with robotics. Students can also join the business and administrative side of YURS to become better acquainted with the club’s activities.

Learn more about the unique clubs at Lassonde.